How to Choose the Right Moving Company

Have you heard horror stories about moving scams?  It should be reassuring to know that there are millions of moves each year in the US, most without a single hitch.  So there’s no need to stress out.  But with so many moving companies to pick from there are some important steps you should take to choose the right moving company.  Here are our tips and suggestions, in 5 basic steps.

Step 1:  A Starting List

With so many local moving companies out there, making the right choice can seem like a daunting task.  But it doesn’t have to be when your first step is to quickly narrow down the list.

Just picking one from the local phone book or getting quotes from a few isn’t nearly enough.  It’s best to start with a list of movers recommended by friends, relatives, and co-workers.  Your real estate agent can also be a great source for reputable moving companies.  You can also do an online search for companies in your area, then narrow that list down to those with lots of reviews and a 4- or 5-star rating.  But as we’ll see, don’t rely on just those reviews and recommendations.

Step 2:  Initial Screening

Next, do a brief background check by searching for each prospect on your local Better Business Bureau’s website (www.bbb.org).  Look through the results carefully — there shouldn’t be any red flags.  You may also want to check with www.movingscam.com.

Step 3:  Diving Deeper

Once you’ve narrowed your list down to 3 or 4 companies it’s time to get an in-home estimate for their moving services.  Be sure to ask for the same level of service (they pack versus pack yourself, schedule time-windows, etc.).  Show them exactly what you want to be moved including items in the yard, garage, and attic as well as alert them to any special conditions at your new home (such as stairs and elevators, the distance between truck parking and the home, and so forth).  That way you should be able to directly compare the several moving quotes.

Carefully review and compare the estimates, highlighting any differences.  Ideally, fees for special conditions (such as multi-story buildings and narrow access), supplies, tolls, and so on should be listed as separate “line items.”  If you have any questions, call the moving company and ask away.

NOTE:  Most local moves have non-binding estimates — the price can change with the actual weight and other factors.  A binding estimate is a fixed price that won’t go up. But it won’t go down either, and there’s probably a safety factor for the movers built-in.  A not-to-exceed agreement can be a good balance between cost and upside risk.

Things To Look For

  • A good company will conduct a thorough inventory of our home before providing a moving quote.  That includes a complete walk-through, even having a look inside large cabinets and furniture (with your permission).  If they don’t gather enough information to make a reasonably accurate assessment of weight and volume their estimate may well be below what they’ll actually charge.
  • Do they offer references from prior customers?  If not, ask for a few from the most recent 3 or 4 months.  Then actually call the references.
  • Do they seem professional and businesslike?
  • Have they been in business for several years?  Preferably 10 or more years.

Warning Signs

  • Reputable movers rarely require a large deposit ahead of moving day.
  • No physical address, just a post-office box or website, suggests they may not be a stable company.
  • A change of business name may be hiding prior complaints and BBB issues.

Step 4:  Background Check

Once you’re down to just one or two movers you may want to spend some extra time to confirm key information.  In addition to the BBB, you may want to use the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s website www.fmcsa.dot.gov.  You’ll need the company USDOT (US Department of Transportation) ID number.  Key info to verify includes licensing, insurance, and incorporation in your state.

Step 5:  Take Your Pick

Now that you know how to choose the right moving company, you can make your decision with confidence.  Please contact us with your concerns if we didn’t make it to the top of your list.

Learn More

\You’ll find more advice at https://www.consumerreports.org/moving/how-to-choose-a-reliable-moving-company/.

 

Military PCS Moves

Military moves are a certainty, so “Permanent Change of Station” has its own unique meaning.  New duty stations and new homes can be exciting, but tough on military families.  That’s especially true when they involve different schools for the kids and your spouse finding another job.  Understanding the process and planning ahead makes it easier for everyone, so let’s talk about some highlights and that endless supply of acronyms.

PCS Move Orders

If you’re new to the military, the military moving game can seem like an impenetrable maze.  There are different types of Permanent Change of Station orders each with different rules, regulations, and travel/moving allowances.  The distinctions include

  • accompanied versus unaccompanied,
  • overseas versus CONUS (contiguous United States) versus the same geographic area,
  • change of unit location or ship home port, and
  • temporary duty en route.

So make sure to fully understand your particular situation.

Making the Move

For local and CONUS moves you’re likely to have a choice in how to handle the actual move of your household goods (HHG), furniture, and “unaccompanied baggage.”

  • do-it-yourself (DITY)
  • personally procured move (PPM) where you deal with the moving company (referred to as the transportation service provider, TSP)
  • military orchestrated and conducted

Depending on your rank and family status you’ll have an assigned weight limit.  You may or may not be able to have any privately owned vehicle (POV) shipped and/or stored at government expense.

Personally Procured Moves

Know your weight limit ahead of time, and compare it with the TSP’s estimate.  You’ll have to pay for moving services for anything above the weight limit yourself.  Any amount you’re not reimbursed for may be a tax deduction.

You should receive some travel allowances in advance of the move, or be issued a travel card for miscellaneous expenses.  For any payments for the TSP that you don’t receive in advance, be sure to allow for the time there will be between when you pay and when you’ll be reimbursed.  Some military movers may be more understanding than others, but civilian regulations often require certain payment to the carrier (TSP) at specific times.

Making the Move Easier

“The more you plan the more you fall behind schedule, because you thought planning would save time.”  That said, there are things you can do to make a military move go more smoothly.  Here are some key tips for personally procured moves.

  • Coordinate with your local personal property office concerning allowances and reimbursements as soon as you receive your PCS orders.
  • Start getting ready 3 months in advance if at all possible.  Call the military moving company (TSP) to schedule-in your move as early as possible.
  • Be sure the TSP has all your contact information so they can reach you 24/7.
  • Identify and label your pro gear — it doesn’t count in your weight allocation.
  • Government priced-contracts typically include paying the military movers for packing and unpacking.
    • If so, use it and make your life a little easier!
    • If not, or if you’re above your weight allowance, packing yourself can save money.  See our packing tips here.

Here are a few more tips to help with any loss or damage.

  • DoD-sponsored household goods and unaccompanied baggage shipments are covered for loss or damage.  You should get claim forms from the TSP, and file with them as early as possible.  After a certain period (typically 75 days) it’s too late to file a claim
  • Create a list of valuable items, and label them.  That should include anything worth more than around $1/lb (yep, replacement values are often limited to under a dollar per pound!).  Anything above $100 per pound is considered “exceptional value” and should be clearly identified on the TSP’s inventory, and taking a photo is highly recommended.  You may want to carry some valuable possessions, personal treasures, and important documents with you as you travel.
  • Read the TSP’s inventory (or “bill of lading”) carefully and make any corrections before signing it!

Resources

We wish we could be more specific but, well, it’s complicated.  And changes from time to time.  Here are some resources that you may find helpful.